Saturday, 22 October 2011

"Many"? Thoughts on the new translation 1

I gather that in some circles disquiet has been expressed regarding the word "many" in the new translation of the words of consecration of the chalice. The objection is generally based upon the argument that Our Blessed Lord died for all people.
True as that may be, it has seemed a poor argument to me since it is quite clear from St Matthew's Gospel that "many" is precisely the word Christ himself used. To suggest the Church should use a different expression does seem rather like saying "Look, Lord, what you really meant to say was...." which is not very different from making a god in our own image.
Returning to the Gospel account it seems not unreasonable to ask why Our Lord used that particular term.
Here context seems significant. The term "many" appears paired with "you". The "you" refers to the disciples present. The "many" refers to an unspecified number of additional others but I suspect that Our Lord was also thereby enlarging upon the significance of his sacrifice as seen in the passage about the Suffering Servant in Isaiah.

"By his sufferings shall my servant justify many,
taking their faults upon himself.

Hence I will grant whole hordes for his tribute,
he shall divide the spoil with the mighty,
for surrendering himself to death
and letting himself be taken for a sinner,
while he was bearing the faults of many
and praying all the time for sinners." (my emphasis)

Those words from Isaiah (Ch.53) have long made a deep impression on me- coming, as they do, at the end of the first reading at the solemn liturgy of the Passion on Good Friday.

It is impossible, surely, to read Our Lord's words in the Gospels and not to be struck by their lapidary quality. There is nothing superfluous or wasted. There is at once an elegance, a richness and a depth about them, almost as if- one might say- he were incapable of speaking mere prose! As Blessed John Henry Newman wrote,
"In all his words most wonderful!
Most sure in all his ways!"

I think it was Saint Jerome who said "Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ". The curious fact here is that he was referring neither to the Gospels nor to any other part of the New Testament but to the Prophecy of Isaiah.
Here as elsewhere the new translation is showing its worth and we are being led to a deeper appreciation of how intensely scriptural the mass is.

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